Nike Triax Elite HRM/SDM $369
WHY IT RULES: This heart-rate monitor and wrist-mounted coach makes everythingexcept the huffing and puffinga snap. Think of it as the one-handed corkscrew, the clip-on bow tie of fitness equipment. Yes, it's that easy to use. » Don the chest strap to measure beats per minute, and secure the plastic foot pod to your laces to clock pace and distance. The water-resistant unit collects these vitals wirelessly, telegraphing your stats to an oversize display. A glance kept me from over- or under-pacing. » Aprè;s-exercise, you need only step within ten feet of your PC to upload datawithout awkward serial-port cords or finicky infrared beams. » The included software archives full-color graphs of heart rate and pace. » Need supervision? A virtual coach can route workouts to the watch. » The final flourish: While sucking data from your wrist, Nike's PC attachment pulses blue light to a heartbeat rhythm. Gimmicky? Yes, but it's a runner's high to use. HMMM...Speed and distance functions (the SDM half of the equation) proved tricky to calibrate.
Canon Digital Rebel $999 with lens ($949, street*); $899 without lens ($849, street)
WHY IT RULES: The Canona 6.3-megapixel digital SLR for $200 less than the competitionblows away every other digital in its class. The pictures are that good. » Want action? The Rebel will reel off four 6.3-megapixel shots in less than two seconds, and because the autofocus tracks the rate at which a subject is approaching or retreating, I could snap crisp images of two deer sprinting through trees. » Canon's image sensor is among the world's best, regardless of price. It renders color and exposure with great accuracy and flushes data faster than other SLRs, so you can shoot more rapidly. » The 1855mm, f/3.5 digital lens offers superb optics. » Even with lithium-ion batteries, the 23-ounce Rebel is lighter than its peers. » The auto-depth-of-field mode meters all objects in the frame and exposes ideally for fore- and background images, properly exposing your girlfriend in front, and Rainier behind her. Hmmm...SLRs send light to the viewfinderyou look through the lens via a prism. That yields perfect composition, but it means you can't frame pictures using the LCD.
Steiner Peregrine 10x42 $899
WHY THEY RULE: A company that satisfies legions of birderssome of the fussiest buyersobviously knows its optics. Focusing is superfast and precise, but not overly sensitive. You see it, you nail it. » The image is breathtakingly sharp, like an Ansel Adams glass-neg enlargement. » Though Steiner spec'd the Peregrines for birders, that's good news for everyone else, too. Birders want true color; check. They need high light transmission for deep-forest shade; they get it, via more than 40 lens coatings and 42mm objectives. Even in murky lighta marina at duskanything I pointed them at, from feeding pelicans to partying yachters, sprang to life. » Featherheads ply their craft for long hours; the 25-ounce rubber-armored bodyridged on top, flat thumb spots belowis a pleasure to hold. HMMM...The folding eyecups will wear out faster than twist-out types.